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Workingwoman’s Need of the Vote

November 6, 1897 — Chicago Political Equality League, Chicago IL


In considering the subject of woman suffrage among working-women, we must remember that of the 40,000 women of a working age in Chicago only a handful belong to any equal rights association. We have no right to expect of these women, with their hard lives, any great interest in a question in which they fail to see any great advantage to themselves. Yet to no class of women is this subject of such vital importance. To them it becomes an industrial as well as a political question, and I believe if the workingwomen were given the ballot they would soon take an interest in conscientiously using it. They well know the power of political influence. On the speculative side it would be an easy matter to make a long speech on the real necessity of suffrage for the workingwoman. Living in a community of working people teaches one this. We all know that not the hardest way to earn a living is through a political position. Women as well as men understand this. Take, for instance, the recent upheaval in political circles over the “star leaguers,” which has been the constant topic of conversation with almost every man, woman and child in our community, for there is hardly one of them who is not directly or indirectly affected by the going out of the four hundred policemen. They know well that the effect of political influence means better homes and better living.

I am not one of those who believe — broadly speaking — that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislatures, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance. But my understanding of the matter is that woman should have the ballot, because without this responsibility she cannot best develop her moral courage. As Mazzini once said we have no right to call our country a country until every man has a vote, and surely no logical mind can stop at sex in granting suffrage. I believe everybody should have the franchise, and qualification not be based on education or property, but representation. I have often been accused of over estimating the workingwoman, but we know the brain is built by manual training. The brightest women I know are found among the class of wage-earners, and of all women they stand most in need of the protection the ballot gives. As women in England have more interest in political matters, their industrial movement is greater.



Source: Public Opinion: A Weekly Journal, Volume 23, No. 24, December 9, 1897, p. 749.